the Guggenheim museum, an American revolution

Hi all!

Only to inform you that Inexhibit museum magazine has just posted a new article on the history of Wright’s Guggenheim museum in NY described under an exhibition design point of view. The article is enriched by photos and drawings courtesy of the Guggenheim Foundation in NY, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Scottsdale and the Library of Congress.
Hope you like it, and I ask you to give me your opinion as well!

The article poses a question to architects and designers: whether or not the Wright’s design has become an archetype for modern museums. What do you think about?

You can see it here, it’s free The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, an American revolution | Inexhibit


First, I agree with De Kooning in regards to the 1956 letter,

“The basic concept of curvilinear slope for presentation of painting and sculpture indicated a callous disregard for the fundamental rectilinear frame of reference necessary for the adequate visual contemplation of works of art”

The building detracts from the art exhibited in the building.

As for being an archetype, I’m in the “no” camp. Not that I know everything, but I don’t know of any other museum that has a single continuous exhibit hall, sloped or “unsloped”.

Dear Iab,

I substantially agree with you about the Guggenheim gallery being unsuitable for proper artworks display. The only museum I know that has an exhibition gallery completely sloped is the Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena by Future Systems, but it is an automobile museum so the requirements are very different from those of an art museum. What perhaps can be seen as an archetype in the Guggenheim is the concept of a unified space where public, artworks and architecture meet in one single socializing space. This point has been more widely accepted, particularly in science museums but also in some fine arts one.

Hi Riccardo,

I completely agree with the first statement, but I am curious to know why in the second statement this archetype is only now being accepted?

My personal favorite museum is by far the Bargello in Florence. I could look at Donatello’s David for a week. But with the openness of that museum and its courtyards, it is exactly what you describe, a unified space where public, artworks and architecture meet in one single socializing space.

I also think scale matters. The Guggenheim is probably on the large end of “small” museums, but for your very large museums like the Met, Art Institute, Getty, etc., the scale is too large to have a single open space.

Hi Iab,

you are right about the Bargello (and very expert too, I dare to say :wink: ) but I was referring to buildings specifically planned to house a museum, so limited to “modern” museums. No doubt that there are stunning single-spaced “quasi-museums” (some cathedrals are among the most incredible art galleries housed in a “grand-space” that one may found, although not actual museums). I also agree with you that a quite large art museums could have serious problems (noise above all) to be conceived as a single unified space even if still divided in different floor levels (the problem with Renzo Piano’s MUSE, which is a science museum, is that it lacks privacy in a certain sense and the crowd murmur is somehow disturbing). Probably a Guggenheim-like model is only suitable for smaller (and not too much overcrowded) art museums. That’s a very interesting point.